Earned reward

The Charleston Port and Seafarers’ Society ministry received an unexpected windfall on Aug. 9. Father Len Williams, chaplain of the Seafarers, which serves Columbus Street and Wando terminals, returned from the post office with a large priority envelope. Inside he found large rolls of cash and a handwritten note from the captain of a merchant ship.

It seems that the ship, APL Jackson, has been sold and will be taken apart for scrap. The crew was about to be dispersed to ships worldwide and was asked to vote on what to do with the balance of the ship’s discretionary fund (to which they contribute to purchase and maintain TVs, DVDs, books and recreation equipment).

The crew voted 100 percent to give the fund to the Charleston Seafarers’ Ministry because they felt that Charleston was the friendliest and most helpful port in the whole world insofar as service to seamen who are away from home for months at a time. The cash amount was $2,500.

The society maintains a port-side center at each location, which includes telephones and computers. The computers are equipped with Skype so that they can see their wives and children as they speak to them. The only cost to the seamen is the number of minutes they use, and the society sells phone cards at a discounted rate.

Congratulations are in order to the Charleston and Mount Pleasant communities, for there are hundreds of area residents who interact with the crew every time one of these huge ships arrives in port.

Fred C. Sales

Seafarers Volunteer

Lawton Harbor Drive

Charleston

Pension risks

Apart from the oft-repeated dictum to “buy low and sell high,” the most important thing an individual investor can learn is that fees and expenses can decimate returns.

Why wouldn’t that also be true for an institutional investor such as the state’s pension fund? Is the concept of common sense foreign to the administrators of that fund? It would seem so.

I began my career with the state (Department of Natural Resources) 37 years ago this month. I was pleased with the fact that at the end of my working life, there would be a modest pension waiting for me. That and other benefits, such as access to a group health plan, helped make up for lower compensation (compared with the private sector). And I have been privileged to work with a stellar cast of characters over the years. I’ve been involved with interesting, important and satisfying work. It’s been a good gig, but it will end in about a year and a half, and I will gratefully join the ranks of the retired.

So now as I begin to contemplate that future, I find that the pension fund upon which I’ll be depending for a significant portion of my income invests in hedge funds.

Hedge funds? Are you serious? Hedge funds have the highest fees around. The industry standard is “2 and 20,” meaning 2 percent annually of all invested monies, and on top of that, 20 percent of any profits. Hopefully the state will have negotiated a better deal than that, but it’s still probably too rich for my liking.

The paper quoted gains for calendar 2012 of 12.39 percent for the pension fund. A quick check at Yahoo/Finance reveals that in that period, the S&P 500 rose more than 13 percent, so we would have done better by being invested in a cheap S&P index fund.

During my career with the state, my wife and I have lived quietly and frugally. We won’t be depending solely on my pension for income, but it could be the difference between eating Alpo and having to make do with Ken-L Ration. So we’d appreciate any and all fiscal prudence you folks in Columbia can muster.

George H. Steele

Whippoorwill Farm Road

Johns Island

Closing message

Because of al-Qaida threats, 22 U.S. embassies and consulates are closed. Our leaders are using wisdom to prevent what happened in Benghazi, Ankara, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Sarajevo, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kabul, Afghanistan, Damascus, Syria, Peshawar and Pakistan in just the last three years from happening again. But is this really using the best wisdom? I don’t think so.

That would be to consider why we are there in the first place. If you don’t want me in your house, I will leave. If I feel unsafe or threatened in your house I will leave.

If you consider me an infidel and only deserving of conversion or death, don’t expect even a visit from me. So why are we there? What good can we do in a place where we are not wanted, liked or tolerated?

I think using wisdom would mean closing those embassies and consulates for good and bringing our people back home where they can serve some useful purpose.

Look at all the other embassies and consulates that are in danger, and close their doors. Isn’t it obvious that we can’t offer them the protection they need?

This is not the time to stand down. Let’s bring them back home.

Roy E. Snipe

Back Pen Road

Johns Island

Elite are exempt

I don’t understand how our congressmen can vote to remove themselves from the coming cloud of Obamacare. They decided that the very law they voted in was too oppressive for themselves.

The law was enacted without being read or understood. Then when they took the time to read it they decided it was not for them so they excused themselves from it.

I feel like I’m living in France in the late 1700s, watching those in power live it up while we below struggle to get by. The president spends millions on vacations. Our representatives enact laws they could care less about understanding. We, the people who are supposedly the government, are left out of the whole picture by being completely ignored.

The day is approaching when Obamacare will come down on us poor saps while the folks in Washington can ignore it. Their approach seems to be, “We are above all that and will continue on this road, voters be damned.”

If the voters don’t do something next election to show how much anger we have over the flagrant disrespect shown them by our representatives, then there is no hope for us and we deserve what we have done to ourselves.

I hear echoes of “Let them eat cake!” I hope to hear the cackles at the foot of the guillotine as those in the voting booths chop these people off the rolls, replacing them with new and vibrant representatives who take their jobs seriously. I pray that we vote in statesmen and stateswomen, not politicians bent on their own fortunes.

Alfred F. Croucher III Riverland Drive

Charleston

Missing sign

The 55 mph speed limit sign on Highway 61 between Village Green and Drayton Hall (as you travel from Charleston to Summerville) has been missing for some time. The post is still there, only the sign is missing. The last speed limit sign a driver sees when traveling this road is the 45 mph sign located across from Live Oaks Memorial Gardens.

Drivers who use the road on a routine basis know that the normal speed after passing Village Green is 55 mph. However, drivers using this highway for the first time see the 45 mph sign and believe it to be the speed limit for the next 10 miles.

Drivers who know the actual speed is 55 mph pass the slower drivers, having them believe that Charleston drivers drive too fast. Maybe the way to eliminate this confusion and a possible accident is to replace the missing sign.

John O’Brien

Highwood Circle

Charleston

Cell-phone ban

Hopefully, common sense will prevail at Mount Pleasant’s Town Council meeting tonight. Council will be voting on a proposed ban on driving while using a hand-held electronic device.

Recently when I flew into San Francisco, just before landing the flight captain reminded his passengers that to drive in California while using a cell phone was illegal.

Thank you, I feel so much safer driving in a state where drivers are paying attention to their No. 1 task — driving.

Denice Caywood

White Pine Way

Summerville